Just the other day, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar was nearly gheraoed by the media in the Central Hall of Parliament. (For the uninitiated, CH is that rarefied part of Lutyens real estate where seasoned journalists of some vintage get access to those who matter in New Delhi’s power matrix: the PM, ministers and MPs, past and present. And even some CMs when they come visiting. All off-the-record camaraderie.) The buzz was, the Modi Sarkar has plans to bar journalists from that much-coveted space, where their access is otherwise annually renewed. One busybody carried tales to the veterans of the trade that Javadekar had been heard holding forth on “how to stop journalists’ entry to Central Hall”. Lo and behold, the moment Javadekar was spotted in CH, he was cornered for an explanation. An otherwise smiling and unflappable Javadekar, clearly agitated this time, was at pains to express “grave concern” over the “fake news” being circulated in his name. The minister insisted he had been dragged into a “baseless and motivated” rumour and that he would be the first one to oppose such a move. It’s another matter, though, that when the new Parliament building comes up — apparently by 2022 — there would be no Central Hall, so that old access would automatically cease to exist.
The new vista
A new Parliament building, part of a the proposed sci-fi-type central vista, is certainly coming up. But the existing historic edifice, where India’s independence was formally ushered in and which has since witnessed many legendary debates, will thankfully not be pulled down. Instead, it would be converted into a museum of democracy! One of the issues with the existing building is that the staircases to the parliamentary offices of the smaller parties are all clogged. Not that any one uses the staircase! Still, it is seen as a potential fire hazard. Also, senior functionaries of the treasury and the opposition don’t have attached washrooms. It proves to be a challenge at times. For instance, when Jairam Ramesh raised an issue about missing ministers during the time allotted for private members bills, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had to come running back from the other end of the building, where he had gone to use the washroom.
Which way, Jharkhand?
The Jharkhand elections are as much about the state as about the contest in Jamshedpur (East) between the incumbent CM, Raghubar Das, and his bete noire, former cabinet colleague and now an independent rebel candidate, Saryu Rai. Congress young turk Gourav Vallabh, as a third angle to the contest, put up a good fight. Nonetheless, the feedback is he can only be a vote-cutter and that the Congress should have supported Rai. Small mistakes like this can end up creating a Goa-like situation in Jharkhand, post December 23. In short, despite the break-up with the AJSU and anti-incumbency against Das, the BJP may manage to cobble up the next government.
The government of Uddhav Thackeray is unlikely to take full shape before the winter session of the state assembly in Nagpur. Its agenda, however, is going to have a farmer-centric focus. As for Centre-state relations and pending projects and investigations, the final call register has been neatly divided between Uddhav and Sharad Pawar. The Congress leaders, needless to say, are jobless and sulking!
Quick gun Jagan
Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has acquired quite a reputation of being a quick gun decision-maker. One of stroke of the pen cancelled the prestigious Amaravati project deal, another got prohibition imposed, yet another issued the fiat on only-English medium schools. Most of the decisions, of course, stem from anti-Naiduism. Jagan is seemingly not bothered if his newly acquired image of a deal-breaker is not going down well with all and sundry. He has a great support system in the Centre after all. Not just PM Modi, the good equation extends to Amitbhai Shah. Particularly after YSRC voted for the amendment to the SPG Act, stripping the elite security cover from the Gandhis.
The author is Resident Editor, Bangalore, TNIE. Email: